Center for Teaching and Learning

Resources to help students read science papers and interpret data

1. Share an infographic on how to read a scientific paper, and discuss it with your students (like this example by Natalia Rodriguez, 2021).

2. Offer students scaffolds like the “Figure Fact” table below to help students interpret and analyze the data (left is a blank version, right is a filled-in example):


3. Offer students an “analysis template” for each figure or data set, like the one below:

Figure or Table Number: _____

“Official” title for this figure or table (from the caption): ___________

My (simplified, decoded, in regular language) title for this figure or table: ___________

The specific hypothesis being tested, or specific question being asked in the experiment represented here is: ________________________________________________.

The controls in this experiment are: ___________

They are represented (in which part of the chart or graph, or what figure panels?)

The experimental variables are: _____________________

They are represented:

We need to compare the controls in _________ with the experimental variables in ____________ to find out ________________________________________________. We need to compare the controls in _________ with the experimental variables in ____________ to find out ________________________________________________.

 (Continue if there are more experiments in the figure): 

We also need to compare ____________________ with _______________ to find out ______________ 

When we do this, we learn that: ________________________________________________.

Overall, what we learn from this figure is: ________________________________________________.

The following issues are ones of concern to me (these can be things you don’t understand, or criticisms of the method, questions for the authors, or anything else that comes to mind):  ________________________________________________.


4. Share and discuss Professor Kene Piasta's guide on How to Read a Scientific Paper with your students.

5. Provide students with discussion questions to focus on as they read.